Federal authorities are investigating whether Chicago Public Schools improperly awarded a contract to a training academy that formerly employed the head of the school system, Catalyst Chicago reported on Wednesday.
The investigation focuses on a $20.5 million no-bid contract awarded to a development academy for principals and other school officials by CPS in 2013. CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, whom the Chicago Tribune reported has not been accused of wrongdoing, worked at the academy before being hired by CPS in 2012.
Catalyst Chicago noted that the no-bid contract raised questions in 2013 because of its size.
"No-bid contracts should be reserved for extraordinary circumstances that demand highly specific skills in a short time frame,” Andy Shaw, president and CEO of the Better Government Association, told Catalyst Chicago in 2013. “It's too early to say if this one qualifies. But Catalyst has raised enough other questions to merit a review by the CPS inspector general."
The CPS inspector general did in fact open an investigation into the contract, but declined to comment to Catalyst on whether that investigation was still ongoing.
The Tribune reported that CPS is considering appointing an interim CPS CEO while the investigation was ongoing.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said during a press conference on Wednesday that he was not sure exactly what the focus of the investigation was. When asked whether he still had confidence in Byrd-Bennett, whom he appointed in 2012, Emanuel said that he couldn't comment until he had more information on the investigation, according to the Tribune.